In 2018, Netflix terrified audiences with their hit horror show “The Haunting of Hill House” created by the new master of horror Mike Flanagan. The show is loosely based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name. The follow-up, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” premiered on Netflix on October 9, 2020.
This season, Flanagan takes his inspiration from another novel, “The Turn of The Screw” written by Henry James. “Bly Manor” starts slower than its predecessor. “Hill House” frightened its audience within the first ten minutes of its first episode while “Bly Manor” took about 30 minutes to scare viewers.
It’s clear from the beginning that there is something haunting the main protagonist Dani Clayton, played by Victoria Pedretti. Dani sees a shadowy type figure with glowing yellow eyes in reflections. She sees this figure mostly in mirrors but also in a car window reflection. This keeps things interesting and leads viewers to question what and who this figure might be, but Flanagan does not let viewers know who or what it is in the first episode.
Before Dani is introduced, the pilot episode starts with a mysterious older woman played by Carla Gugino, arriving late to a rehearsal dinner for a young couple. The rehearsal dinner takes place at a large castle and later that evening a group is gathered around a fireplace. The engaged couple tells the group that the castle might be haunted. Gugino’s character jumps in and begins to tell a ghost story. Although she makes it clear it is not her ghost story. It all feels a little tacky. Next is a flashback to 1987, this is when the audience is first introduced to Dani. You’re left with the mystery of who Gugino’s character is and how she knows this ghost story.
When the flashback starts, Dani meets with Mr. Wingrave who is played by Henry Thomas. Dani has an interview with him to be the au pair for his niece and nephew. Position viewers learn no one wants. The interview scene runs dreadfully long. After the interview, Dani conveniently runs into Mr. Wingrave at a pub. They are more relaxed, and the chance meeting turns into Dani nabbing the job.
In the first episode of “Hill House”, by now the audience knew more about the characters and story. Compared to its predecessor, “Bly Manor” is quite stale. The audience also learns one of the ghosts’ names. “The Bent-Neck Lady” haunts one of the characters who is also played by Pedretti.
When Dani arrives at Bly Manor, she meets the children Flora and Miles and the housekeeper Mrs. Grose. They give Dani a boring and cliché tour of the estate. Later that night when Dani tucks the kids to bed, Flora asks Dani to promise not to walk around the house at night. Of course, Dani breaks this promise and sneaks down to the kitchen.
This is the first real scare scene that happens. A ghost that looks like a plague doctor turns towards Dani as she finds her way back to her room. It’s an unsettling moment, but nothing to jump out of your seat for. The real stomach-churning moment comes the next night when Dani is locked in the closet by seemingly sweet children Flora and Miles.
Pedretti’s performance in this scene is exceptional and viewers feel her pain and anxiety of being stuck in the closet. When she’s finally let out, the children claim it was an accident. Dani attempts not to be mad then orders them to bed.
When Dani leaves the children’s room, we see a glimpse of the plague doctor ghost down the hallway. In reference to Hill House, Flanagan teases the audience with hidden ghosts. Viewers can be sure there will be more to come throughout the season. The end of the pilot episode of ‘Hill House’ offered the audience a shocking twist. “Bly Manor” leaves the audience scratching their heads.
After watching the beginning of “Bly Manor”, the audience is left with the feeling there is something more sinister at play here. Great performances and mysteries are reasons to continue watching but hopefully, the rest of the season brings more ghastly scares as “Hill House” did and less of a slow burn.